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Friday, June 18, 1999 Published at 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Panchen Lama returns to Tibet

The Dalai Lama has given his backing to a different successor

The boy recognised by the Chinese government as the Panchen Lama - the second highest spiritual leader in Tibet - has returned to the capital, Lhasa.

It is believed to be only his second visit to Tibet since his controversial selection four years ago.


[ image: Gyaincain Norbu was appointed in a lavish ceremony in 1995]
Gyaincain Norbu was appointed in a lavish ceremony in 1995
The state-run Xinhua news agency said nine-year old Gyaincain Norbu was given a warm welcome by Buddhist leaders in a ceremony on Thursday. It did not say if he would remain in Lhasa.

The news agency said the boy was "in good health under the care of the central government" and progressing in his studies under the tutelage of senior Tibetan Buddhists.

"The 11th Panchen Lama can recite sutras for three successive days and is now the esteemed and beloved religious leader of Tibetan people," Xinhua said.

Alternative candidate


BBC Beijing Correspondent Duncan Hewitt: His appointment added to tensions between China and the Dalai Lama
Gyaincain Norbu is understod to have been living in Beijing since November 1995, when he was installed as Panchen Lama.

His appointment went against the wishes of the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, who had chosen another candidate, Gedhun Choeki Nyima, to succeed the 10th Panchen Lama, who died in 1989.


[ image: The 10th Panchen Lama died at Tibet's Sigatse monastery in 1989]
The 10th Panchen Lama died at Tibet's Sigatse monastery in 1989
The 10th Panchen was the most senior religious figure to remain in Tibet after the Dalai Lama fled to India with thousands of his followers in 1959 to escape a Chinese crackdown.

The rival claimants to his succession are both about the same age.

The controversy over the appointment added a new dimension to the conflict between the exiled Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government over the control of Tibetan Buddhism.

Auspicious sign

One of the most important roles of the Panchen Lama is to identify the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.

The officially endorsed candidate was installed in November 1995, in a ceremony broadcast by state television across China.


[ image: The Dalai Lama's choice has not been seen for several years]
The Dalai Lama's choice has not been seen for several years
According to the official media, an associate of the boy's mother discovered the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet on his tongue, leading many to believe he was the reincarnation of Buddha.

The boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has been kept out of the public eye by the Chinese authorities, and international human rights groups say they fear the boy is being held under house arrest.

The Chinese foreign ministry announced last year that Gedhun Choeki Nyima was "living with family members and everything is good", - but it refused to say where the boy was.



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19 Jun 99 | Monitoring
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Internet Links


The Tibet Society (UK) information on the Panchen Lama Dispute

Government of Tibet in Exile: Information on the Panchen Lama

Free Tibet: Gedhun Choekyi Nyima - The Panchen Lama

China.com


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




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